Babies in the Workplace

My initial work plans following Isabella's birth included a 14-week maternity leave, followed by three days working in the office and two days working from home. Soon after she was born, however, I realized that the thrill-a-minute life of the at-home mommy was too great a deal to give up, and I asked my manager if I could work at home full-time. He was a great boss, and agreed, but a needy baby and a demanding job eventually became too much for me to handle, and I gave up the needy baby. I mean, the job. I gave up the job. That's how I came to be a freelance writer.

Awhile back, a friend of mine sent me a link to this news video. Basically, it's a short piece from the national news that talks about a new trend where parents bring their young babies to work with them. Apparently, 70 companies nationwide have a formal "bring your baby to work" program in place. The arguments for such a program include higher employee morale (obviously, if your company is saving you tens of thousands of dollars in daycare costs, you're going to think they're pretty damn great), greater productivity in that parents aren't worrying that their infants are watching 10 hours of Baby Einstein videos in daycare because the precious bundles are right there next to them emailing "XfglhlhkFKGO!)#%*)$^()T()$^(%)" to their managers, and lower healthcare costs, because mothers can breastfeed their young babies longer, which may lead to reduced illnesses.

I watched this video and I initially thought, "Wow. Cool."

And then I reconsidered. Is bringing your baby to work really a good thing?

On a practical level, I see a Babies At Work program working in only a specific subset of office environments, and definitely not in one where employees interact face-to-face with clients. The office profiled in the video is a law firm. How exactly do the lawyers meet with clients with any degree of professionalism if there's a baby in the room with them?

I think the success of a program like this one also depends quite a bit on the makeup of the office. For example, this never would have worked in either of the two offices where I spent the first 10 years of my professional life. In the first, I worked in a giant cube farm surrounded by other writers and editors. Quiet was paramount and demanded of everyone. When employees did bring their wee ones in for a few hours during school breaks or when they were sick, resentment abounded. In the second, I worked in an office where 95% of the employees were middle-aged males whose wives did not work because they stayed home with the kids. To say a Babies At Work program wouldn't do well there is a drastic understatement.

And of course, from a purely selfish perspective, as an employee who suffered through two years of infertility hell, the last thing I would want to see and hear all day, every day is my office-mate's beautiful gurgling baby. Younger, unmarried employees and those without children might resent the presence of the bambinos too.

Obviously, our government and healthcare system has a long way to go in reforming laws and benefits for parents of young children. The maternity leave and childcare provisions in this country suck and need to change now.

But I'm not sure a Babies At Work program is the answer.

10 Responses to “Babies in the Workplace”

  1. # Blogger beagle

    Having family in Europe and having grown up in Canada, I second the statement that maternity leave sucks in the USA as does vacation time. Two weeks away from work is not enough for most people but it's what most people get (if they're lucky).

    I am currently in a family business scenario, and even at that I'm not sure I want to bring my (future) baby to work. Though, I have a funny feeling that my boss aka dad is expecting some variation on that theme.

    We'll see and then I'll let you know how that goes! LOL

    You talk about how it would depend on the office, but it would depend on the baby too I imagine. Some are more content (aka quiet and or less demanding) than others, that's for sure! I'm counting on getting a colicky one.  

  2. # Blogger Mom24

    I do not think it's a good idea to bring your baby to work. I've never felt like it was fair to the baby--or to your work. Maybe, it would be all right for the first few months, but if they're old enough to be typing at the keyboard, then I think they deserve to be in a place that's more kid-friendly, and hopefully with more attention than someone who's also trying to hold down a job can give them. Of course, I realize that when you work at home, it can be hard to give them undivided attention, but at least at home you have more "stuff" to keep them occupied, and can work your schedule around their needs--at least theoretically! I honestly think this is looking more at what's easier for the parent, but not necessarily in the best interest of the child.  

  3. # Blogger Tracey

    I didn't watch the link, but I instantly must say that NO, babies at the work place is generally not a good idea. It's not giving enough credit to either job: as a mother or as a professional. It's saying that you can give truly devoted attention to your company and perform well while giving truly devoted attention to your child and parent them well.

    Being a professional businessperson is a Serious Job. You must be concentrated. Dedicated. Focused. HOW is that possible when you have a collicky/poopy/cooing/sleeping/funny/etc baby with you all the time? Also? How is it fair to the child that you are never fully focused on them? What does that say to the baby?

    No. Impossible, IMHO. I think on-site daycare is a great idea, though. Having a small, personalized daycare at each business is a wonderful idea and would give the best of both worlds, again, IMHO.  

  4. # Blogger MsPrufrock

    Yeah, what Tracey said. I don't like it from either perspective - that of a mother, nor that of an employee with that sort of office policy. As a mother I want to keep the spheres of work and motherhood separate, not mix them. As an employee in regard to other peoples' babies...I don't generally LIKE babies that aren't mine.  

  5. # Blogger My Wombinations

    Hmmm.. Interesting question. I am not sure what I think. On the one hand it SEEMS like a great deal. On the other, I am not sure how much actual work I would realistically get done if Sam was with me. IT would be cool, though if R and I could alternate. He brings the baby to work 2 days, I bring her 3. In that case, I could get behind it.

    As far as not liking babies, I tend to not have a lot of sympathy for that argument (just like I don't for not liking dogs). Babies are just little people. I am not especially fond of many people, but I cannot ask for a people-free work place. Well, wait. Actually, I can. Mine is pretty much people free, especially on the days Sam is in daycare. Yay me.

    I will give all this more thought... Thanks for the interesting discussion.  

  6. # Blogger Shannon

    well what needs to change is better maternity leave and vacations here in the US like beagle said...

    But, I am all for the work day being shorter and weekends longer... why... because I think that would help more with working parents than anything else... 3 day weekends... 6 t0 7 hour days (because it seems everyone lives an hour + from home)... would help them out so much...

    But, depending on what job I had would depend on if I would bring Lore or any other child we have to work... I don't think it would of worked with Lore since she was so active so early unless it was a gym lol...

    But some times I think professtionalism is over rated... family should always come first...  

  7. # Blogger Jesser

    I just don't like the idea, I must admit. I think it short changes everyone ... the work and the kiddo. Maybe with some select types of jobs it could be OK, but mostly, I don't think it works. I must admit, I'd love on-site daycare though. The idea of being able to drop in on her or go breastfeed or whatever would be great.  

  8. # Anonymous Lis Garrett

    I have to agree. All the jobs I've had required intense customer interaction, either in person or over the phone, and concentration. I don't think the bank where I used to work would appreciate a costly mistake on my part because my attention is divided.

    It's hard enough working from home with my kids around. I don't want to have to worry about them bothering other people, too.  

  9. # Blogger Damselfly

    It's an interesting idea, but I wonder how that would work. I can't even type on the computer at home without Fly grabbing the mouse, or climbing in my lap, standing on the desk or turning the computer off completely.

    One time at an editorial job I had, the boss' daughter-in-law who worked across the hall brought her six-year-old son in. He played basketball up and down the hall and annoyed the heck out of everyone!  

  10. # Blogger Debbie

    This is something I've never been able to wrap my head around. I don't think it's fair to the work, workplace or the child.

    We're lucky in Canada to have a 1 year mat leave. But, I could not imagine at 3 months, or even 6 months bringing my child into the office so that I could work. I've had to bring my son in on a weekend to do a couple things, but I'm never there more than an hour and I'm lucky enough to have a door I can close.

    What happens when you have more than one child at home? Or multiples?

    On the other hand, on-site daycare would be fabulous for companies that could handle it, but it depends on the size of company and their location.  

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